Barefoot Running: Myths and Facts
Let me start by saying that I have never been a fan of the barefoot running concept. While I completely agree that humans have evolved to run barefoot, my belief has been that we learned to run on grass and dirt–not pavement and blacktop. Our legs and feet simply do not have the cushioning and protection needed for these harder surfaces. Therefore, in my opinion, barefoot running has always been a risk that’s just not worth taking. However, I have never really had any proof beyond my own intuition that running barefoot on concrete was not a good thing. Luckily Triathlete.com has published some of those facts I have been missing (here).
To summarize, researchers had 12 athletes run on both a cushioned and non-cushioned treadmill while there oxygen intake was monitored. When weight was controlled (ie: the weight of a shoe was applied to the foot without the additional padding of the shoe) it was found that the runners used 1.7 percent more energy when running barefoot. The takeaway from this study was that the body was actually using additional energy to help cushion the foot strike. Therefore shoes with even just a little cushioning are still better than minimalist shoes or no shoes at all.